Center for Theory and Computation

The Maryland Astronomy Center for Theory and Computation (CTC) is the umbrella for theory and computation related programs within the Department of Astronomy. The mission of the CTC is to promote excellence and innovation in theoretical and computational astrophysics, providing a collective identity and focus point for both research and educational activities. Groups and individuals within the CTC pursue cutting-edge research that covers the full spectrum of technical and topical disciplines within contemporary astrophysics, and maintain collaborations with other theoretical and observational research groups worldwide. A major CTC emphasis is on developing and using state-of-the-art computational tools to extend the frontiers of astrophysical knowledge.

The CTC is the administrative structure that manages theory-related activities and resources within the Astronomy Department, including the theory seminar series, the CTC postdoctoral fellowship, and the Department computing cluster (yorp).

CTC People


Benedikt Diemer
specializes in computational astrophysics, meaning that he runs and analyzes large computer simulations. His primary research interest is in structure formation, the gravitational collapse of matter in the universe into the structures we observe or infer today, such as galaxies and dark matter halos.
Doug Hamilton
has a wide range of interests including the origins and dynamics of rings, moons, planetary systems, star clusters, and black holes.
Eliza Kempton
studies the atmospheres of extrasolar planets. She specializes in 1-D radiative transfer, atmospheric chemistry and cloud/haze modeling.
Tad Komacek
studies the atmospheric circulation, climate, and evolution of a broad range of exoplanets encompassing hot gas giants and temperate rocky planets through a combination of three-dimensional atmospheric circulation models with a range of complexity, one-dimensional interior evolution models, and pencil and paper theory.
Cole Miller
is interested in high energy processes in accreting neutron star and black hole systems, measurements of neutron star radii and their implications for dense matter, and gravitational radiation from binary compact objects.
Derek Richardson
works on granular models of asteroid interiors and surfaces, the dynamics of dense planetary rings, and the formation of planetesimals in the early solar system, and is involved in several current and proposed space missions to small solar system bodies, including as co-investigator of the DART mission, scheduled for launch in 2022 with impact in 2023.
Massimo Ricotti (CTC Director)
is a cosmologist interested in high redshift galaxy formation, nearby dwarf galaxies, the physics of the intergalactic and interstellar medium.


Shmuel Bialy (CTC Postdoctoral Fellow)
Drew Hogg

Graduate Students

Harrison Agrusa
Joe DeMartini
Alex Dittmann
Jordan Ealy
Giannina Guzman-Caloca
Chongchong He
Isiah Holt
Jegug Ih
Katya Leidig
Julian Marohnic
Calvin Osinga
Jongwon Park
Arjun Savel

CTC Research

Members of the CTC pursue research in a wide range of areas within theoretical astrophysics. Subject areas of particular emphasis include:

Solar System Astrophysics:
orbital dynamics of rings and moons, fundamentals of resonance-driven evolution, mechanics of asteroid and planetesimal collisions, evolution of dust, solar system origins
atmospheric structure, chemistry, dynamics, climate, and evolution; connections to observations and origins
Galactic Astrophysics:
formation of stars and planets, dynamics of the interstellar medium, photodissociation regions, star cluster dynamics, dark matter dynamics
High Energy Astrophysics:
radiation from neutron stars and black holes, gravitational radiation, diagnostics of AGN, fundamentals of accretion physics, magnetohydrodynamics of jets and winds, gas physics in galaxy clusters
galaxy formation & evolution, intergalactic medium (Lyman-alpha forest and reionization), the formation of the first stars, black holes, globular clusters and the origin of dwarf galaxies.

A major emphasis of the CTC is on development and application of computational tools to enable forefront astrophysics research. These tools include symplectic integration codes for orbit evolution, parallel tree codes for N-body problems, grid-based codes for magnetohydrodynamics, and general circulation models and radiative transfer codes for exoplanet atmospheres. CTC members are also involved in development of community software packages for visualization and analysis of numerical simulations. Large-scale numerical simulations are performed on departmental and university computing clusters, and at national supercomputer centers.

Student research projects in theoretical/computational areas are normally supervised by CTC professorial faculty, often in collaboration with departmental research faculty members and with members of the department involved in observational research.


CTC Seminars:

A forum for research lectures, given either by members of the department or visitors. CTC seminars typically occur on Wednesdays at noon, and pizza is provided on weeks when we have speakers from outside the UMD community. Listing of upcoming CTC Seminar talks

CTC Postdoctoral Fellowship:

The CTC runs a prize postdoctoral fellowship. Established in 2006, this independent postdoctoral program is to attract highly qualified postdoc applicants whose research overlaps with the interests of the CTC faculty The Department hosts one CTC fellow at a time, meaning that we typically solicit new applications once every 2-3 years.

Facilities and Resources

Cluster Computing

Theory Think Tank

The CTC administers a Departmental computing cluster and is heavily involved in campus supercomputing. The local cluster, called yorp, consists of Intel and AMD computer nodes that are upgraded periodically to keep the facility modern and competitive. The cluster supports both serial and distributed parallel applications and is maintained by Department staff.

At the campus level, the Astronomy department has dedicated priority access to the university supercomputing facility, deepthought2, which consists of nearly 10,000 CPU cores with fast, low-latency networking and high-performance I/O. Some nodes have large memory while some others have programmable GPUs. In early 2023, the facility will be replaced by Zaratan, a near ten-fold improvement in processing power and storage.

(The picture above shows one of the yorp racks with AMD servers.)

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